Last Updated Jan 2020 – The most important difference between a super expensive Shun and a crazy cheap Ginsu knife is the metal each knife is made out of. While things like balance, ergonomics, aesthetics, and handle materials all make a difference, the material that actually makes up the blade has a lot to do with how the knife performs.
A high-quality high carbon steel (like VG-10) will maintain an edge for longer, is easier to maintain, and will often hold up better in the kitchen than a cheap stainless knife.
Hampton Forge is one of Ginsu’s chief competitors in the low-cost knife market. They make a variety of knife sets from a pretty wide range of materials. What really sets them apart, however, is their mastery of cheap titanium kitchen knives. But how does this exotic material compare to stainless steel? More importantly, can does it hold a candle to more expensive high-carbon options from Dalstrong and Zwilling?
In order to find out, let’s dive right in with some reviews of top Hampton Forge knife sets.
This colorful knife set comes with 5 colorful knives, each with its own blade guard. The handles and guards are all in different colors, giving you a bright, rainbow-colored set that will liven up your knife strip quite a bit.
All of the knives in this set have non-stick titanium PLATED blades. This is an important distinction: the blades themselves are made out of a pretty normal steel. This means that as far as the edge is concerned, they’re quite comparable to normal low-cost sets. In other words, you’ll get pretty similar cutting performance out of a Ginsu set.
The titanium coating is not totally useless, of course. It’s excellent at preventing these knives from corroding or rusting. Both of these are fairly big issues when it comes to any type of knife. If you’re not careful with how you store and clean your knives, they’ll corrode, rust, and discolor very quickly. This includes expensive knives from top brands like Shun, too. In fact, high-carbon expensive knives are much MORE likely to corrode than knives made from less expensive materials.
But how do these knives actually perform?
The answer is that they do “okay.”
You’re not going to impress anyone with how sharp these knives are right out of the box. There won’t be any cutting of silk scarves, and a simple paper test might not give you quite the results you want. They are, however, more than sharp enough for standard kitchen work.
To be fair, “okay” is more than good enough for food prep. You might not be quite as fast as someone using a razor-sharp Shun, but you can still do a pretty good job with a basic knife set like this one. You can even use a wide range of cutting techniques between the flat-bladed santoku and the more traditional all-purpose chef’s knife.
Personally, I’d rather spend more on a Dalstrong Phantom chef’s knife instead of buying this set, but that’s me. I spend quite a lot of time in the kitchen, so even a small improvement in cutting performance and edge retention goes a long way. If you’re a bit more of a casual cook and the bright colors of this set appeal to you, there’s nothing wrong with picking it up. It’s very cheap, meaning that there’s not a lot of downside involved. Make sure you have realistic expectations, however: these are pretty much just colorful department store knives.
If you want a more traditional looking set of titanium knives, this Skandia knife set comes with gunmetal black blades and matching dark handles. It’s housed in an elegant wooden knife block that won’t look out of place on any counter.
Just like the knife set above, the best part about this knife block is the price. It’s well under half of the cost of a single “nice” chef’s knife, even if you choose a cheaper option. This set includes a chef’s knife, a santoku, and four utility knives in various sizes, meaning you get plenty of things to put in your block.
Strangely, this set comes with a sharpening stone. This is somewhat suspicious: if you’re a knife person you probably know that good sharpening stones cost two or three times more than this set costs total. It also doesn’t really match up with all of the other details. The titanium construction, full bolster, and poor quality metal all make these knives somewhat difficult to sharpen freehand. It would be a much better idea to simply include a honing steel.
Again, the titanium in these knives serves primarily to stop them from rusting, which is a common problem among cheap knives. Any stray water that’s left on your knife can rust it, meaning that throwing a set of Ginsus or whatever in a wet sink or dishwasher often results in rust spots. This means that these Hampton Forge knives are pretty good as a throwaway knife set you don’t really care for.
For the price, these knives are actually surprisingly sharp and nice to use. That said, the price is really, really low, so that’s not saying much. With pleasant aesthetics and the questionable inclusion of a sharpening stone, I think this is actually one of the nicest knife sets you can pick up around this price range.
Again, just like the set above, I’d definitely recommend also buying a cheap Dalstrong, Cangshan, or Victorinox chef’s knife if you’re somewhat serious about cooking. All three brands offer high-quality knives at a pretty low price point, giving you a cheap way to experience the advantages offered by a decent knife.
If you’re not a fan of the titanium gimmick, this is a more “standard” set of low-cost steel knives. It comes in a pretty big set for the cost, giving you plenty of food-prep options while also providing kitchen shears, steak knives, and a sharpening tool.
Hampton Forge claims that these knives are “forged,” not “stamped,” which is somewhat remarkable for knives of this price. Still, the steel used in the construction is nothing special. While the extra care taken during construction ensures that these knives feel a little bit better in terms of handling and balance, they’re still not amazing when it comes to edge performance.
Again, to be clear, “not amazing” is still more than good enough for casual kitchen use. You can cut food with these without any issues, and while they might not hold an edge after being sharpened quite as well as a nicer knife set, they also need less maintenance and are far less expensive to replace in the event of damage. This means that this knife set is an excellent purchase for someone who doesn’t cook quite as often. You’ll get a full set of adequate tools plus some extras for a pretty low price.
If you want a set of nicely balanced knives on a budget and you don’t care too much about the steel involved, the Hampton Forge Signature Madrid knife block is an excellent purchase. You get a complete set of forged knives with excellent ergonomics, heft, and balance, meaning you’ll actually enjoy using them in the kitchen. While they’re not the sharpest things in the world, you’ll have plenty of room left in your budget to pick up a more expensive knife from a brand like Cangshan for all of your delicate cutting.
While the cherry-red handles of this Argentum set make it pretty attractive, it’s not necessarily a better option than the set above. Quality assurance issues plague this particular set, meaning that there’s a pretty high chance that the red in the handles will actually flake off over time. Still, it’s a low priced option that’s worth at least some consideration, especially since the previously mentioned issue doesn’t affect the performance of the knives themselves.
Just like the set above, this Hampton Forge knife block comes with a full set of knives with excellent balance and ergonomics. Again, the edges are nothing special, but they’re more than adequate for casual food prep every now and then. You can even sharpen them if you’d like, although you’ll find that they don’t hold an edge anywhere near as well as a more expensive knife set.
The aesthetics of this set are pretty nice, so it’s unfortunate that the red in the handles has a tendency to come off. Users report that this happens most frequently in the dishwasher and with harsh detergents, although there’s some variance in what customers suggest happened with their set. In any case, it’s best to be careful when you clean this knife set. Regular dishwasher cleaning and being exposed to water for long periods of time will cause rust spots. If you’d like to avoid these, consider one of the titanium-plated sets above for a little bit more rust resistance.
Again, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this set for casual use. It’s fairly sharp, the knives look great, and they’ve got excellent balance for a budget set. If you don’t already have a nice chef’s knife, however, I’d still recommend picking up a cheap Victorinox, Dalstrong, or Cangshan over this knife block. You’ll get a professional-quality tool that will stay sharp much longer.
Finally, let’s take a look at Hampton Forge’s most distinctive line: the Kobe metallic knife set. The steel handles, dark block, and bold lines of this set make it a wonderfully aesthetic choice for your kitchen.
Looks can be deceiving, however, and this set is one that I do NOT recommend buying. The reason is simple: the metal handles have a habit of trapping water inside of them. I mentioned before that the metal that’s used in knives is prone to rusting, and these knives are no exception. When you get water trapped inside the handles, they literally rust from the inside out.
Now, it’s not totally impossible to keep these knives rust-free. Careful hand washing is more than enough to clean the blades, and if you’re diligent about keeping the handles dry they could easily hold up in your kitchen for years. For me, however, the increased risk is simply not worth it. I’d much rather pick up any of the other sets on this page.
If you’re a fan of the metal aesthetics of this set, be sure to consider the Cangshan options presented here. Not only are these knives free of the aforementioned design flaw, they’re actually made of higher quality steel, meaning they’re sharper and easier to maintain. While they’re a bit more expensive than a Hampton Forge set I think they’re more than worth the additional cost.
Hampton Forge Knives: A Budget Option For Casual Chefs
Hampton Forge makes a variety of ergonomic, well-balanced knives that are more than sharp enough for casual cooking. If you’re not a super serious chef, there’s nothing wrong with picking up one of their cheaper knife sets in order to give yourself a full rack of kitchen tools. Don’t expect the world, however, especially when it comes to the edges. You’ll find that while the knives are more than adequate, they’re certainly not as sharp as a real high-quality chef’s knife.